Cast your mind back to May 2013. The excitement of two next-generation consoles releasing in a few short months was unbearable, the general gaming public had been saving up for months, maybe years for the Winter ahead, and any news no matter how small was like discovering a jewel in the harsh sands of the blistering desert.
Sony and Microsoft would continue their raging battle for supremacy, with Nintendo already having entered the next-generation world with their Wii U, while the non-console gamers would sit unmoved in the background, wondering what all the fuss was about. Some things never change.
Microsoft organised a press conference in order to reveal their new machine. The anticipation was enormous, with Sony having already announced the Playstation 4 three months earlier, to see what Microsoft had organised to react.
The results were not impressive. Not only did the name ‘Xbox One’ come under scrutiny (this is the third Xbox console after all), but a host of its features were instantly degraded by critics and fans alike.
The main concerns were as follows:
- The DRM model (Digital Rights Management) which meant that any physically-purchased game installed on to the console would be linked to an account, meaning that the disc could not be used in any other console. Therefore re-selling the game disc would be impossible, but the disc would not be needed to play the game, which could also be ‘shared’ with up to ten friends/family members, or to anyone else for 30 days.
- In order to enable this sharing capability, each console would effectively need to be connected to the internet at all times (or at least once every day) whether you intended to share games or not.
- The new Kinect model to be released alongside the Xbox One would be mandatory. At all times Kinect would be plugged in to the console, even when not being used.
- The Xbox One was advertised as more of a home entertainment system than a gaming console, which for the gaming population was a huge put-off. (Prompting Sony to adopt the phrase ‘This is for the players’ for their PS4).
On the plus side, the new controller received generally positive impressions. However, with only pictures to go by for now, the real test would be when players could get their hands on it and test out its functionality (spoiler alert: It turned out to be quite good!)
Fast forward to today, and the general feeling towards the Xbox One are much, much better than at the beginning. Admittedly it has been far outsold by Sony’s machine but the games are varied and exciting, the problems are minimal overall and many of these initial concerns have been addressed. Just after E3 had wrapped up, Microsoft U-turned on their DRM model, therefore allowing discs to be played in as many different consoles as possible. On top of this, the ‘always online’ idea was suitably canned, being reverted to an initial online connection when first receiving the console, and the requirement of Kinect to be constantly connected was also removed, although the mandatory purchase of the motion-sensor peripheral remained (to begin with).
One reason for the shift in opinion for the Xbox One could be down to the change in leadership. In March 2014, the ‘Head of Xbox’ Marc Whitten quit his post and paved the way for the current incumbent Phil Spencer, who has been with Microsoft since 1988 in various roles. One of his first actions was to dedicate most of the Xbox One’s efforts towards games, focusing more on what makes it a games console as opposed to an entertainment system.
At this year’s E3, Xbox used the slogan ‘The greatest games lineup in Xbox History’, with Spencer leading the show. Whether this is genuinely the case or not is down to opinion, however the team at Xbox are certainly turning things around, with Kinect now available for purchase separately from the console, and the forefront of each Xbox showcase being what is most important to the fans: the games.
We are now seeing a greater variety in games, including the indie scene with games like Ori and the Blind Forest, Nero and more. It will be interesting to see if timed-exclusivity on games like Rise of the Tomb Raider has any actual effect on sales. Other exclusives like Quantum Break, Recore, Sea of Thieves and Halo Wars 2 has the Xbox fanbase very excited for the future.
After an initial price of $499, the console has repeatedly been slashed in price, especially after the removal of Kinect’s mandatory status, and is currently on sale from Microsoft themselves for $349. The way Microsoft were handling the PR side of things to begin with was pretty poor when first revealed, however people’s heads have been turning for over a year now and the Xbox is once again the console of choice for a large section of gamers young and old.
A massive announcement coming out of this years E3 was the introduction of backwards compatibility to allow Xbox 360 games to be played on an Xbox One. Either digitally or physically, the older games that people may have missed out on the first time around will soon be available to play on this generation’s console. Currently only available to ‘Xbox Preview’ members, the full update is expected in November, with a vast selection of Xbox 360 games available straightaway, with many more promised in the future. This is more than doubling the selection of games available to play on the current generation’s machine, and considering it’s absolutely free is a huge step in the right direction.
The Xbox One is definitely here to stay. The inevitable slim model will be on its way, new ‘Elite’ controllers are coming and brilliant games are now out or on the horizon. The reveal has had lasting effects, and the price difference has been an issue leading to Sony’s somewhat dominance, but to say the Xbox One is a failure would be foolish. Perhaps Microsoft will take extra care on their next major reveal though.
Whether you own a PS4, Xbox One, Wii U or gaming PC, it’s a fantastic time to be a gamer and the fact that these companies are listening, and making changes based on our feedback is good news for everyone.
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